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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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The followers of John Hutchinson, who was born in Yorkshire in 1674. In the early part of his life he served the duke of Somerset in the capacity of steward; and in the course of his travels from place to place employed himself in collecting fossils. We are told that the large and noble collection bequeathed by Dr. Woodward to the University of Cambridge was actually made by him. In 1724, he published the first part of his curious book, called Moses's Principia, in which he ridiculed Dr. Woodward's Natural History of the Earth, and exploded the doctrine of gravitation established in Newton's Principia. In 1727, he published a second part of Moses's Principia, containing the principles of the Scripture philosophy. From this time to his death he published a volume every year or two, which, with the manuscripts he left behind, were published in 1748, in 12 volumes, 8 vo. On the Monday before his death, Dr. Mead urged him to be bled; saying, pleasantly, "I will soon send you to Moses, " meaning his studies; but Mr. Hutchinson taking it in the literal sense, answered in a muttering tone, "I believe, doctor, you will;" and was so displeased, that he dismissed him for another physician; but he died in a few days after, August 28, 1737. It appears to be a leading sentiment of this denomination, that all our ideas of divinity are formed from the ideas in nature, that nature is a standing picture, and Scripture an application of the several parts of the picture, to draw out to, as the great things of God, in order to reform our mental conceptions.

To prove this point, they allege, that the Scriptures declare the invisible things of God from the formation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made; even his eternal power and Godhead, Romans 1:20 . the heavens must declare God's righteousness and truth in the congregation of the saints, Psalms 89:5 . And in short the whole system of nature, in one voice of analogy, declares and gives us ideas of his glory, and shows us his handy-work. We cannot have any ideas of invisible things till they are pointed out to us by revelation: and as we cannot know them immediately, such as they are in themselves, after the manner in which we know sensible objects, they must be communicated to us by the mediation of such things as we already comprehend. For this reason the Scripture is found to have a language of its own, which does not consist of words, but of signs or figures taken from visible things: in consequence of which the world which we now see becomes a sort of commentary on the mind of God, and explains the world in which we believe.

The doctrines of the Christian faith are attested by the whole natural world: they are recorded in a language which has never been confounded; they are written in a text which shall never be corrupted. The Hutchinsonians maintain that the great mystery of the trinity is conveyed to our understandings by ideas of sense; and that the created substance of the air, or heaven, in its three-fold agency of fire, light, and spirit, is the enigma of the one essence or one Jehovah in three persons. The unity of essence is exhibited by its unity of substance; the trinity of conditions, fire, light, and spirit. Thus the one substance of the air, or heaven in its three conditions, shows the unity in trinity; and its three conditions in or of one substance, the trinity in unity. For (says this denomination) if we consult the writings of the Old and New Testament, we shall find the persons of the Deity represented under the names and characters of the three material agents, fire, light, and spirit, and their actions expressed by the actions of these their emblems. The Father is called a consuming fire; and his judicial proceedings are spoken of in words which denote the several actions of fire, Jehovah is a consuming fire

Our God is a consuming fire, Deuteronomy 4:24 . Hebrews 12:29 . The Son has the name of light, and his purifying actions and offices are described by words which denote the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, John 1:9 . Malachi 4:2 . The Comforter has the name of Spirit; and his animating and sustaining offices are described by words, for the actions and offices of the material spirit. His actions in the spiritual economy are agreeable to his type in the natural economy; such as inspiring, impelling, driving, leading, Matthew 2:1-23; Matthew 3:1-17; Matthew 4:1-25; Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29; Matthew 8:1-34; Matthew 9:1-38; Matthew 10:1-42; Matthew 11:1-30; Matthew 12:1-50; Matthew 13:1-58; Matthew 14:1-36; Matthew 15:1-39; Matthew 16:1-28; Matthew 17:1-27; Matthew 18:1-35; Matthew 19:1-30; Matthew 20:1-34; Matthew 21:1-46; Matthew 22:1-46; Matthew 23:1 . The philosophic system of the Hutchinsonians is derived from the Hebrew Scriptures. The truth of it rests on these suppositions.

1. That the Hebrew language was formed under divine inspiration, either all at once, or at different times, as occasion required; and that the Divine Being had a view in constructing it, to the various revelations which he in all succeeding times should make in that language: consequently, that its words must be the most proper and determinate to convey such truths as the Deity, during the Old Testament dispensation, thought fit to make known to the sons of men. Farther than this: that the inspired penmen of those ages at least were under the guidance of heaven in the choice of words for recording what was revealed to them: therefore that the Old Testament, if the language be rightly understood, is the most determinate in its meaning of any other book under heaven.

2. That whatever is recorded in the Old Testament is strictly and literally true, allowing only for a few common figures of rhetoric: that nothing contrary to truth is accommodated to vulgar apprehensions. In proof of this the Hutchinsonians argue in this manner. The primary and ultimate design of revelation is indeed to teach men divinity; but in subserviency to that, geography, history, and chronology, are occasionally introduced; all which are allowed to be just and authentic. There are also innumerable references to things of nature, and descriptions of them. If, then, the former are just, and to be depended on, for the same reason the latter ought to be esteemed philosophically true.

Farther: they think it not unworthy of God, that he should make it a secondary end of his revelation to unfold the secrets of his works; as the primary was to make known the mysteries of his nature, and the designs of his grace, that men might thereby be led to admire and adore the wisdom and goodness which the great Author of the universe has displayed throughout all his works. And as our minds are often referred to natural things for ideas of spiritual truths, it is of great importance, in order to conceive aright of divine matters, that our ideas of the natural things referred to be strictly just and true. Mr. Hutchinson found that the Hebrews Scriptures had some capital words, which he thought had not been duly considered and understood; and which, he has endeavoured to prove, contain in their radical meaning the greatest and most comfortable truths. The cherubim he explains to be a hieroglyphic of divine construction, or a sacred image, to describe, as far as figures could go, the humanity united to Deity: and so he treats of several other words of similar import.

From all which he concluded, that the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation were so many delineations of Christ, in what he was to be, to do, and to suffer; that the early Jews knew them to be types of his actions and sufferings; and, by performing them as such, were so far Christians both in faith and practice. The Hutchinsonians have, for the most part, been men of devout minds, zealous in the cause of Christianity, and untainted with heterodox opinions, which have so often divided the church which have so often divided the church of Christ. the names of Romaine, Bishop Horne, Parkhurst, and others of this denomination, will be long esteemed, both for the piety they possessed, and the good they have been the instruments of promoting amongst mankind.

Should the reader wish to know more of the philosophical and theological opinions of Mr. Hutchinson, he may consult a work, entitled "An Abstract of the Words of John Hutchinson, Esq. Edinburgh, 1753."

See also Jones's Life of Bishop Horne, 2d. edit. Jones's Works; Spearman's Inquiry, p. 260-273.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Hutchinsonians'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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